Yesterday, the world’s most ambitious media blockchain company had a very public embarrassment. It was the last day of a public token sale for the Civil Foundation, a media project using blockchain to launch a new generation of ad-free media startups. But when it came time to sell the token at the center of it all, the project came up short. Civil had initially planned to raise as much as $24 million, and pledged to return the money if it raised less than $8 million. In the final accounting, less than $1.5 million was spent on tokens, more than $1 million of it coming from Civil’s direct investors at ConsenSys.

The company put the blame on a needlessly complex process for buying tokens, and pledged to try again, returning donations in advance of a refigured sale in the weeks to come. But the result is still a disastrous start for a project that has struggled to gain momentum in the cryptocurrency world.

PopulaandSludgelaunched with grants from the venture-funded media company, although much of that support is now being taken over by the foundation. In the long term, the publications mostly plan to sustain themselves with user donations, either in simple cash or Civil tokens. This week’s sale is a problem for the foundation budget — and Iles says the nonprofits’ plans are already being scaled back as a result — but the rest of the network seems less concerned.

a running joke. Depending on the context, Civil’s blockchain can be a governance mechanism, an anti-censorship tool, or a micropayments system. Even observers who were convinced of the Civil blockchain’s usefulness in verifying datelines are less convinced of the broader merits of the project. Utility-based tokens like Filecoin — arguably the most complex blockchain projects that have found success so far — seem simple in comparison, but Iles bristled at the comparison.

“Filecoin is a way to pay people to run Dropbox on their computer,” Iles told me. “Civil is a way to crowdsource accurate and ethical information, at minimum. We’re complicated only insofar it’s important how we do things.”

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